Turkey opens “world’s largest airport”

The Istanbul New Airport should serve around 200 million passengers a year

Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson now has serious competition. The airport is likely to lose its title of the world’s busiest as Turkey has opened a brand new, massive airport.

On the 95th anniversary of the country’s establishment as a republic, Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will open the Istanbul New Airport during a ceremony today.

The project, part of massive investments for Turkey‘s 2023 centennial, has cost $7.2 billion in its first stage and was built in nearly three years.

In its first phase, the airport should serve more than 90 million passengers per year. However, the plan is to serve around 200 million travellers annually, which is almost double the number of passengers that pass through the current busiest airport.

With six runways, the Istanbul New Airport plans to serve around 200 million passengers a year — IGA Turkey opens “world's largest airport” Turkey largest airport
With six runways, the Istanbul New Airport plans to serve around 200 million passengers a year — IGA

Once fully operational, the airport will use six runways on 19,000 acres in total. For the first phase, the airport will utilise only two of the runways and three separate airstrips.

In December, Istanbul’s current main airport, named after Turkey‘s founder Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, will close with all operations moving to the New Airport. Atatürk airport now handles around 63 million passengers a year.

“This airport is going to be the most important hub between Asia and Europe,” said Kadri Samsunlu, head of the IGA, the contractor and operator of the project.

The project has caught attention for its unique Turkish and Islamic design and a tulip shaped air traffic control tower won which gained the airport the 2016 International Architecture Award.

It also uses mobile applications and artificial intelligence for customers, is energy efficient and equipped with a high-tech security system

For its Islamic and Turkish design the airport gained the 2016 International Architecture Award— IGA Turkey opens “world's largest airport” Turkey largest airport
For its Islamic and Turkish design the airport gained the 2016 International Architecture Award— IGA

However, the airport has also been linked to controversy. The head of a construction workers’ union, Nihat Demir, said a rush to meet Erdoğan’s deadline had been a major cause of the accidents and deaths.

He claimed that the pressure to finish had led to “carelessness, accidents and deaths”.

Turkey’s Ministry of Labour has denied media reports about hundreds of airport construction deaths. In February the ministry said that 27 workers had died at the site due to “health problems and traffic accidents”.